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Kosovo Crisis Update

Kosovo Crisis Update

19 July 1999


The U.N. will issue its revised consolidated appeal for the Kosovo emergency and post-Dayton operations early next week, on the eve of the first donors' conference for Kosovo being convened in Brussels on 28 July by the European Commission and the World Bank.

Meanwhile UNHCR has received a welcome new infusion of funds for its Kosovo programme. On 16 July, the government of Japan announced a fresh contribution of $18 million to UNHCR's Kosovo emergency operation, of which $2 million are earmarked for prefabricated shelter. This brings Japan's total contributions to UNHCR for the Kosovo operation alone to $41.1 million.


Over the 3-day period 16-18 July, over 9,000 refugees returned to Kosovo, many coming from countries outside the area, to which they had been evacuated or fled during the conflict. The total number of returnees to date is approaching the 700,000 mark, while the number of refugees remaining in the neighbouring countries and territories has fallen to just over 100,000.


A high level of tension between the different ethnic groups in Kosovo still prevails, with members of minority groups being attacked, sometimes fatally, on a daily basis. UNHCR is faced with a dilemma: how to reconcile its advocacy role for preventive and protective measures to safeguard the right of minorities to remain in their homes with the need to facilitate access to safety for those in life-threatening situations.

In a positive development on Sunday, 75 Roma who had sought protection from UNHCR and KFOR in Prizren decided to return to their homes in the village of Landovica, 10 km north of Prizren on the road to Djakovica. The Roma had asked to be taken out of their village on Friday, and moved to the sports centre in Prizren town, after at least 7 Roma houses were burned down and others were looted and vandalized. The house burnings started in the night of 14-15 July and continued in the night of 16-17 July. Landovica is a heavily damaged village where until recently the few untouched houses belonged to Roma, thus fuelling resentment on the part of returning Albanians. On Saturday morning, KFOR arrested two Albanians in connection with the house burnings.

Another community of around 200 Roma in the Istok area have asked to be moved out if the current level of KFOR protection is reduced. In the Mitrovica area, two large groups of Roma, numbering 200 and 400 persons, have taken refuge in a school and a warehouse. 106 members of the Roma population in Stimlje walked to Urosevac on 17 July because they felt unsafe in their home areas and subsequently fled to the FYR of Macedonia.

In a similar pattern but involving a different ethnic group, following the killing of 4 Albanians on 14 July in the tiny village of Muchibaba in Gnjilane municipality (prewar population less than 1,000, nearly all Albanians), all the remaining villagers decided to leave and KFOR escorted them to stay with friends and family in other areas.

Meanwhile one Serb on average is reportedly killed every night in Kosovo, and elderly Serbs are regularly thrown out of their homes and must be given shelter. The Serb population remaining in Pristina is subject to systematic harassment and the divide between Serbs and Albanians in Mitrovica is widening. The Prizren monastery still shelters more than 180 Serbs under precarious conditions. Some 280 Serb families remain in their homes in Prizren, but dare not leave them, even for the most basic errands.

In general, the security situation in Kosovo leaves much to be desired. Many residents to whom UNHCR staff have spoken in Kosovo, and especially in the western part of the province, increasingly blame the poor security situation on gangs from Albania.

With the help of the German agency THW (Technisches Hilfswerk), UNHCR has distributed 2,000 emergency shelter kits last week in the Orahovac area, and plans to distribute 16,000 more. These are the first of UNHCR's planned 50,000 kits to be distributed to beneficiaries. In addition, since returning to Kosovo in mid-June, UNHCR has provided displaced people and returnees there with 11,000 tents, 380,000 blankets, 240,000 mattresses, 250,000 hygiene kits, 150 metric tons of soap and tens of thousands of jerry cans, kitchen sets and plastic sheets.

Mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO)

A World Health Organization survey has found that around 150 Kosovars have been killed or maimed by explosions of mines or ordnance in the month since they began returning home. During this period there were 10 anti-personnel mine injuries per 100,000 persons in Kosovo. 71% of the victims were under 24 years of age, and the majority were men and boys. WHO expects the rate of mine accidents to remain high, as the population returns to work in the fields and begins to collect firewood for the winter.

In Prizren and Djakovica, up to 45% of hospital beds in surgical and orthopaedic wards are occupied by victims of mine and ordnance blasts. Mine clearers fear there may be hundreds of thousands of mines not yet detected as well as a large number of unexploded NATO bombs in the tiny province, which now ranks with Cambodia and Afghanistan for its mine risk.

Mine awareness activities continue in and out of Kosovo. In Montenegro a joint World Vision/UNICEF/UNHCR awareness campaign has been completed in Ulcinj, Rozaje, Tuzi, Plav and Berane, and a mine safety seminar was conducted for NGO staff, as many travel in and out of Kosovo. In addition, 5,000 mine awareness brochures have been produced and distributed, as have thousands of t-shirts, caps, jackets, badges and signs carrying land mine danger slogans.


UNHCR will remain engaged in Albania in the post-emergency phase, and is urging partners to do so as well. Quick Impact Projects are being developed to address rehabilitation needs following the departure of refugees. These may include the rehabilitation of tented camp sites, repair of buildings which had been occupied by refugees and of affected water, drainage and sanitation systems as well as roads and transportation facilities. In addition, the upgrading and winterization of collective centres will continue. Already around 50 NGOs have indicated an interest in remaining in Albania to work on post-emergency projects. Funding for rehabilitation projects is expected to be available from a number of bilateral and multilateral sources.

The President of the World Bank, Mr. James Wolfensohn, is currently visiting Albania. UNHCR will welcome him in Kukes today and arrange his visit to a host family as well as to refugee camp sites which used to house tens of thousands of refugees and which are now virtually empty.

All Kosovar refugees have now also left the camps in the Korce area in south-eastern Albania, where they arrived in early April when the government of the FYR of Macedonia transferred around 10,000 to Albania from the Blace border crossing. All have returned to Kosovo, either via Kukes, where they were being transferred by air until the landing strip in Kukes collapsed, or directly to Pristina airport.

A special session of Albania's Parliament addressed the question of refugee camp security on Friday 16 July. UNHCR was represented. The main issues under discussion were the looting of assets from camp sites and the need to strengthen the capacity of the Albanian police to respond to this situation.

UNHCR and partners continue to transfer assets from Albania to Kosovo. This supply line began on July 8 and has continued since then. A convoy team co-ordinated by the UK Department for International Development has been moving tents, hygienic articles, kitchen sets, plastic sheeting, mattresses, blankets, sugar and rice into Kosovo. Three water trucks and 6 dumptrucks have also been transferred. Altogether 50 water/sanitation trucks will be shifted to Kosovo.

Republic of Montenegro

The number of Kosovars remaining in Montenegro has fallen to around 30,000, but may soon be equalled by the number of non-Albanians who have arrived in the Republic since the deployment of KFOR in Kosovo. UNHCR estimates that around 23,000 Serb, Montenegrin and Roma displaced people from Kosovo have come to Montenegro. While some have moved on to Serbia, most remain in the Republic. The Roma Union in Montenegro has told UNHCR that they expect more Roma to arrive from Kosovo. More than 100 Roma moved into Montenegro on the weekend, along with an even greater number of Serbs from Kosovo.

During the first two weeks of July, UNHCR has actively supported the Montenegrin Red Cross efforts to assist the newly displaced, who are sheltered in 16 municipalities in the Republic. UNHCR provided thousands of mattresses and blankets, as well as tents and cooking stoves. Many of these items were provided to the Roma settlement outside Podgorica.